Reivew: Choral offers beauty and drama

By William Dart

Auckland Choral conductor Uwe Grodd. Photo / Dean Carruthers
Auckland Choral conductor Uwe Grodd. Photo / Dean Carruthers

Auckland Choral came up with an eye-catching Caspar David Friedrich image for the programme booklet of Saturday night's Hymn of Praise concert.

The lofty idealism of the German painter's hero, isolated in majestic Alpine surroundings, found musical echoes in Bach's mighty G minor Fantasia and Fugue, with John Wells moving from the roar of surging fantasia to the noblest fugal logic.

Conductor Uwe Grodd had promised us some "purely beautiful contemporary music" and James MacMillan's A New Song didn't disappoint with its wafting choral flourishes and keyboard colorations. Chris Artley's O Magnum Mysterium was less engaging, its banal harmonies and tinkling chimes at odds with the emotional depth of its text.

After interval, there was the much anticipated opportunity to experience Mendelssohn's rarely-heard Second Symphony.

Pipers Sinfonia made a grand play of its endlessly marching first movement, and adroitly mingled waltz and march in the second.

If the Adagio religioso didn't quite induce rapture, then the fault was as much Mendelssohn's as his musical messengers.

Choir and soloists added a palpable heft to the finale. Anna Leese sang with authority and assurance while Jaewoo Kim brought considerable presence to his testing tenor lines.

To top it all, Grodd and his choristers were invincible here, from the Handelian grandeur of the opening chorus to the dramatic momentum of the closing hymn of praise.

What: Auckland Choral.

Where: Auckland Town Hall.

When: Saturday.

- NZ Herald

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